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The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time
The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

80

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (1993)

Phantasy Star has its fans, a great many of whom jumped on when the series went MMO, but it’s never been a franchise uttered in the same breath as Square Enix’s best and Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium releasing hot on the heels of Final Fantasy VI didn’t help. The irony is that Sega’s magnum RPG opus does pretty much everything Final Fantasy would offer in the years that followed way ahead of the curve: combo spells, manga-inspired cutscenes, space travel, multiple vehicles to play around in, and the best, delightfully earnest storytelling the genre has to offer. This is the system’s quietly ignored masterpiece. Clark

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

79

Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)

Considering the reason so many of us play video games, it’s odd how often most titles follow a very specific set of unspoken rules. Not so with Conker’s Bad Fur Day, a recklessly unfiltered, untapped, superego-filled romp through a parody of inanely inoffensive titles like Banjo-Kazooie. Conker cursed and solved puzzles by getting drunk enough to extinguish flame demons with his piss, blithely sent up pop culture as diverse as A Clockwork Orange, Saving Private Ryan, Alien, and The Matrix, and still had time to lob rolls of toilet paper down the gullet of a giant operatic poo monster. For sheer balls, lunatic ingenuity, and crass charm, there’s never been anything like it. Riccio

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

78

Hotline Miami (2012)

Amid the arms race of next-gen graphical evolution and the seemingly endless deluge of triple-A blockbuster shooters arrived a veritable thunderbolt of weird, Hotline Miami, and the landscape of modern gaming would never again be the same. A hallucinatory top-down action game that plays like River City Ransom as imagined by David Lynch, Hotline Miami is a fever dream of violence and retro gaming, pulling together the tropes of the medium’s innocent infancy and turning them into something altogether darker. Jonatan Soderstrom and Dennis Wedin didn’t simply make a classic game; they burrowed their way into the deepest recesses of gaming’s unconscious, and the result feels like a nightmare you just had but only half-remember. Calum Marsh

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

77

Viewtiful Joe (2003)

A dazzling homage to movie magic, superheroes, and the 2D side-scroller that was warmly praised when released on the then-floundering GameCube, Viewtiful Joe employed a battlefield blueprint inspired by cinematic visual effects. Its VFX powers (Slow, Mach Speed, and Zoom In) put players in the director’s chair (or, perhaps, that of the editor), giving them the opportunity to control and cut their own stylish fight sequences while dispatching foes and solving puzzles. And with its charming art design (a nod to both Japanese tokusatsu and American B movies) and cel-shaded graphics done oh-so-right, it remains a reminder of what enchantment might result from the marriage of film and video games. LeChevallier

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

76

Ninja Gaiden (1988)

Though tough and not infrequently cheap with its hits and enemy respawning, Ninja Gaiden rewarded perseverance with spectacle and power. It’s a game of foreboding, arcane temples and ancient demons with creepy little details as opposed to the amorphous blobs of most games of the time. Using comparatively little horsepower—especially compared to the flashier but slower Shinobi titles—the game lets players feel like a ninja, a fast, powerful warrior with both speed and power, able to manipulate the physics to do impossible things. The catch is that those impossible things aren’t just for flash and flair, but a requirement for victory. The most vital and important part of that spectacle, however, was the game’s cutscenes, the first time such a thing had been implemented in a console game, and still some of the best implemented until the Playstation era. Again, with so little in terms of resources, the cinematic cutscenes managed to replicate the language of cinema, telling a simple, fantastical story, and yet an effective one, full of twists, unexpected plot turns, tension, and stakes. Ninja Gaiden marked the moment where your primary motivation to complete a stage wasn’t a high score, but to see what happened next, and what happened next was actually interesting enough to be worth the effort. Clark

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

75

Half-Life 2 (2004)

The original Half-Life redefined the way players experienced first-person shooters with heavily scripted sequences and a well-written narrative. Half-Life 2 took this to the next level, as silent protagonist Gordon Freeman is removed from cryostasis and plunged into a future dystopia—a formerly human-populated city now turned zombie nightmare—reminiscent of Nazi Germany where the last remaining humans reside, enslaved by an unstoppable alien threat. Without ever relying on cutscenes, the game makes you a first-person participant in its storyline, one that turns the tide from oppression to rebellion fighting for the future of humanity. It’s a classic whose thrills best those of most action movies and demonstrates the remarkable innovation the medium is capable of. Aston

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

74

Halo 3 (2007)

The alien vessel you’re trapped in is less a ship than a living thing. The rooms are bordered with bloated, swollen pustules stretched from wall to wall, while sacs of throbbing “organs” hang from the ceiling, from which disgusting monsters emerge to attack—a stark contrast to the large endless fields that comprised most of Halo: Combat Evolved. Beginning on Earth with a bloody firefight in the jungles of Africa, then teleporting to an ancient structure beyond the edges of the Milky Way where multiple alien races feud, leading to the rescue mission in the disgusting living alien ship, before concluding with a recreation of the original Halo, Halo 3 remains notable for its diversity of setting and how it complements its variety of action. Aston

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

73

Three Fourths Home (2015)

Through a family’s yearning for solidarity and economic security, Three Fourths Home finds a spiritual connection between seemingly disparate generations. You make dialogue choices as twentysomething Kelly, whose disappointment about her lack of self-sufficiency could have made for a pandering tale of millennial angst. Developer Zach Sanford avoids this mistake by also emphasizing the vicissitudes of her family’s life, whether it’s her father being out of work due to injury, her younger autistic brother’s trouble at school, or her sometimes-overbearing mother trying to hold the whole unit together. This approach gives Three Fourths Home a mature social consciousness, allowing the characters to illustrate common American anxieties that transcend the party politics of our time. Pressgrove

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

72

Mass Effect 3 (2012)

Everything is on the line in the final chapter of the Mass Effect trilogy, which profoundly views sacrifice as an imperative. Having long ignored Commander Shepard’s warnings, every being in the universe now faces destruction as the genocidal Reapers bring ruin to every world. The theme of this series has always been inclusivity, and it’s with this in mind that the player must travel the game’s large and multifaceted universe to end wars, unite races, and build a resistance to an absolutely devastating threat. All the way toward the largely misunderstood climax that brings the game’s themes together in an intelligent and metaphysical way, one is forced to make difficult and heady choices, including sacrificing beloved characters and sometimes entire species toward a common good. Aston

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

71

The Binding of Isaac (2011)

Two titles are more responsible than any other for turning these last few years of gaming into the era of roguelikes. If Derek Yu’s Spelunky is the indisputable prodigy, the preppy Ivy League candidate parents love to show off to neighbors, then Edmund McMillen’s The Binding of Isaac is the problem child, the surly metalhead most likely to snub the guests and stay in the garage smoking pot and listening to Slayer. It’s a game sprinkled with visual references to terminal illness, substance abuse, abortion, religious fanaticism, and matricide—one where digging into sunflower-colored turds can net you some cool treasure and passing gas is a viable mode of offense. Yet the core mechanics operating behind this repulsive and fascinating façade are no less impeccably engineered than Spelunky’s. Alexander Chatziioannou

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